At Least It’s Not Your State Legislature…

Well, then. US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara has set his sights pretty high.  After indicting NY State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver the other week, news is leaking out today that his next target is NY State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau). If true, it would expose the breadth of the corruption in the NY State Legislature – Senate and Assembly, Democrat and Republican – with two of the "three men in a room" who control NY politics under indictment.

While Bharara's office won't confirm the news, Bharara has made it clear that Silver's indictment was only the tip of the iceberg. After he announced Silver's indictment he said "Stay tuned," and he's also been quoted as saying "If ever there was a moment for real reform, I think it’s now […] If there was ever a time for New Yorkers to show their trademark impatience with the status quo and to show it loudly, I submit now’s a good time for that." Clearly he believes that the corruption on Albany is both deep and broad.

Could this lead back to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office? It was Gov. Cuomo who suddenly disbanded the commission investigating corruption, and Cuomo counts both Skelos and Silver as allies. At the very least it sounds like he tried to bury the truth.

Hickenlooper Apologizes for Sand Creek

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Image via Facebook

Posted today on Gov. Hickenlooper's Facebook page – and, I imagine, on other websites as well…

Today, as runners complete the 16th annual, 180-mile Sand Creek Spiritual Healing run, marking the 150th anniversary and commemoration of the Sand Creek Massacre, I offer something that has been too long in coming.

On behalf of the state of Colorado, I want to apologize.

To the runners, to the Tribal Leaders and to all of the Indigenous people and the proud and painful legacy you represent…

On behalf of the good, peaceful and loving people in Colorado, I am sorry for the atrocity that our government and its agents visited upon your ancestors. I want to assure you that we will not run from this history, and that we will always work for peace and healing.

This is, as the governor notes, a long time in coming – too long. Thank you, Governor.

Supreme Court Won’t Take Up Gay Marriage Appeals; Colorado to Begin Issuing Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

POLS UPDATE #4: More reaction, Sen. Mark Udall:

"We are a stronger, better state when all couples are able to publically affirm their shared commitment and responsibilities to one another through marriage. The U.S. Supreme Court's move to let the Denver-based 10th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision in favor of marriage equality stand is a win for all Coloradans," Udall said. "We should celebrate what this will mean for so many of our friends, family members and neighbors. And while this is an important milestone for our state and for other states around the country impacted today, we still have work to do to ensure equality for Americans nationwide."

Udall has been a vocal advocate of striking down misguided laws that discriminate against committed, married gay couples at both the state and federal levels. Udall last year helped to pass in the U.S. Senate the bipartisan Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would bar employers from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. However, the U.S. House of Representatives has refused to act on the legislation. He also led the successful effort to repeal the harmful and discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

The Colorado House and Senate majorities in a joint statement:

"The Supreme Court's decision to let the lower-court rulings stand vindicates a lot of work by a lot of people over a lot of years," said Speaker Mark Ferrandino, the House sponsor, with Rep. Sue Schafer (D-Wheat Ridge), of the 2013 Colorado law allowing civil unions for same-sex couples. 

"It's gratifying that this moment came before my time in the legislature ends," the term-limited Speaker Ferrandino said, "but what really matters is that our state and our country will finally offer equal treatment under the law to all loving couples." 

"We knew this day would come," said Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver), who with Senate President Pro Tem Lucia Guzman (D-Denver) were the Senate sponsors of the 2013 law. "The only task left for us is to fix the obsolete Colorado laws now on the books and make them constitutional according to the decisions handed down by the courts, particularly the 10th Circuit." 

"The majority of Americans, and a majority of Coloradans, support marriage equality," Sen. Guzman said. "This is about families, and Coloradans know that families are the backbone of a strong, healthy state. This decision provides further opportunity for all families to succeed under the law." 


POLS UPDATE #3: The Denver Post reports that Pueblo County is now issuing same-sex marriage licenses, the first jurisdiction in Colorado to do so after the Supreme Court's action today.



POLS UPDATE #2: Colorado Attorney General John Suthers concedes the obvious. From the Denver Post:

Colorado Attorney General John Suthers on Monday said all 64 county clerks must begin issuing same-sex marriage licenses after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear all appeals on gay marriage bans.

Suthers' announcement is an abrupt and unexpected resolution to the legal battles in Colorado, including the attorney general's previous successful efforts to stop to county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses this past summer…

…"By choosing not to take up the matter, the court has left the 10th Circuit ruling in place," Suthers said in a statement. "We expect the 10th Circuit will issue a final order governing Colorado very shortly. Once the formalities are resolved clerks across the state must begin issuing marriage licenses to all same-sex couples."


POLS UPDATE: Our friends over at "The Fix" sum up today's decision quite nicely:

The Court's ruling (or lack thereof) is expected to extend gay marriage to 30 states — and it's easy to imagine a number of other states will follow suit in seeking legalization since there will be no pending legislation in front of the Court to keep them from doing so. Will there eventually be a challenge to the legality of same sex marriage in front of the Supreme Court? Yes.  Does the makeup of the Court make some difference in how that decision turns out? Also, yes. But, by not acting on the current challenges, the Court has allowed the massive momentum in favor of gay marriage to continue. And not just to continue, but to grow.

Original post follows…


(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

What will Colorado's Attorney General do now?

The news out of Washington, DC this morning is that the Supreme Court has denied the appeals from opponents of marriage equality this morning: (AP News blurb). With the announcement, the stays of various Appeals Courts are vacated and gay marriage is now legal in all jurisdictions where appeals courts have found in favor of marriage equality!

AG Suthers said he wanted the courts to wait until a decision was handed down by the Supreme Court. This is the decision: the Appeals Courts are unanimous so far – gay marriage is a fundamental right! Will Suthers abide by the decision and ask for his stays to be lifted so that GLBT couples can join in the celebration of marriage? Or will he continue to delay and obstruct?

What Military Gear Did Your Police Department Purchase?

Do you want to know what military surplus equipment your favorite law enforcement division picked up under the 1033 program? Well, you're in luck! NPR has published its research in nice easy-to-search files on Google Drive. According to their analysis, only three percent of the transfers under the program were weapons – but there are still a lot of weapons in the bunch.

Is your city or county police department suddenly flush with bayonets? (Yes, I'm looking at you, Englewood and La Plata – WTF do you need with dozens of bayonets?!?!?) Did your county sheriff's office acquire more M16A1's and M14's than it had officers? (That might be you, El Paso County, with 44 M16's and 4 M14's…) Did your city find itself severely short of M16A1s the last time it had to control protesters (Colorado Springs – 140 M16's and 14 M14's)?

Or perhaps your department opted for a robot bomb disposal unit (we got a few, but let's give a special shout out to the bombing hotspots of Mesa and La Plata counties for picking up three each!), or what appears to be serious amounts of firefighting equipment (Archuleta seems like it went on a particular spree with intrenchment tools and packs…), or maybe just some utility vehicles.

Colorado's list is all here, sorted by organization. If you'd like it split out differently, or want to peruse other states' data, the complete data set is also available.

At Least He’s Not Your (Soon-to-be-former) Congressman

No, I'm not talking about Eric Cantor. And I'm not talking about Cory Gardner, either.

Tonight's diary award winner is blowhard Texas Representative Steve Stockman. Stockman challenged Sen. Jon Cornyn in his state's primary and lost, which means that – fortunately – he won't be haunting the halls of Congress next year.

But today we get news that the Office of Congressional Ethics has found Stockman illegally received donations from his Congressional staff and then made a (poor) attempt to cover it up.

How poor?

Apparently each of the two staffers had parents who decided – on the same night – to donate $7500 apiece to Stockman's campaigns (he was running three campaigns, so he had three times the normal $2500 limit). When OCE investigated, the parents could not remember making those donations, so…

Stockman's campaign filed an amended report stating that the donations came directly from his staffers. But Federal employees are forbidden by law from donating to their employers, so…

10 months after the date of the donations, Stockman filed employment papers with the Congressional employment office stating that his two staffers quit the day of the donation – of course before the TIME of the donation – but then decided to come back to work the next day.

Yep. Nothing to see here, folks. Move on…

Study Shows Colorado Schools Fail Those From Poorly-educated Backgrounds

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A new study from Harvard takes a look at the math and science scores of various states and compares them to those of other countries. It also breaks down the results by the educational background of school childrens' parents. And what it says about Colorado is what we've all known for a while: that Colorado doesn't do well by its disadvantaged children.

Overall, Colorado does pretty well. We're between Ireland and New Zealand in overall Math proficiency (with Ireland ranked 14th and New Zealand ranked 15th among countries), and we're 7th place among the states. (The USA comes in overall at 27th place.)

However, when children are separated by the level of education of their parents and those from the least educated backgrounds are evaluated, Colorado drops significantly to 33rd among the states, between the Czech Republic and Greece (28th – 29th among the 34 OECD states participating in comparative testing). (The USA rises to 20th place in comparison).

The trend continues looking at those of moderate education (Colorado is in 10th place among the states) and high levels of education (where Colorado ranks 4th among the states).

As I said, this is what we've known for a long time: Colorado's disadvantaged students – often those in rural areas and those in poverty in the cities – are not given the same advantages that those in well off areas with high concentrations of educated people. This is the root of the Lobato lawsuit and our state's current education funding crisis – that the state's funding formula places exceptional and disproportionate burdens on those children in less well off areas.

NY Gun Control Case – 1st Post-Sandy Hook Law Review

A Federal judge for the Western District of New York issued his ruling on NYSRPA v. Cuomo – a challenge brought against the NYSAFE Act – on New Year's Eve 2013, providing the first big legal review of gun control and safety laws enacted since the Sandy Hook shooting.

In his ruling, Judge William Skretny (nominated to the bench by GHW Bush in 1990) upheld the vast majority of the law, striking down four provisions. Notably, the judge upheld background check provisions, bans on assault style weapons (and weapons with assault rifle features), in-person only ammunition sales, and a 10 round magazine limit.

The four provisions struck down were:

  • • Limiting the number of loaded rounds to 7 (even if the magazine could hold 10). The judge found this additional restriction arbitrary and without any rational purpose.
  • • An unintelligible drafting of one paragraph dealing with large capacity magazines of a certain manufacture date. The main portion of the section remains intact, but a portion of the section was invalidated because the judge ruled there was no functional way to read it.
  • • A misuse of the word "break" instead of "brake" in limiting muzzle brakes. The provision banning muzzle brakes was struck because of the repeated misuse of "break" instead.
  • • An attempt to ban semi-automatic versions of automatic weapons. The judge ruled in this case (sadly, IMHO), that simply specifying "semi-automatic versions of automatic weapons" was too vague for the ordinary citizen, who might not know that a rifle or pistol was based on an automatic version. This is the major loss of the case, IMHO, because our Federal assault rifle ban was riddled with holes based on this or that gun that wasn't explicitly listed, but was functionally equivalent to a banned rifle.

On the other hand, the judge explicitly ruled in favor of the following that might be of interest to Coloradoans:

  • • "Readily adapted or converted." The judge ruled that this terminology had been accepted since the 1994 Federal assault rifle ban and that it had been ruled acceptable in several cases previously.
  • • Shotgun tube magazine limits. Likewise, the judge ruled that despite the variability of shotgun shell lengths, there was a relative standard that could be applied that would make sense in applying these limits.
  • • Large capacity magazine limits. The judge ruled that, even considering the "in standard use" standard of the Second Amendment, that there was an adequate and well-demonstrated public safety need that outweighed the Constitutional right (similar to limits on yelling "fire!" in a theater), and that said safety need met the requirements of Heller.

Of course, this is a regional district court in a different federal circuit, but you can expect that the legal reasoning used in this decision will be given substantial weight in any challenges brought against Colorado's new gun laws.

The full court decision can be read via Google Docs thanks to the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, which largely lost its case

Civility And The Death Of Good Ideas

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This month marks the end of an experiment for the online edition of Popular Science; the editors there have decided after a lot of agonizing internal debate to end their reader comments feature. Why? Because several online studies have determined that the tone of debate could negatively affect a reader's opinion about an issue, more than the debate itself.

Their reasoning is sad, but sound:

Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they'd previously thought. […]

Another, similarly designed study found that even just firmly worded (but not uncivil) disagreements between commenters impacted readers' perception of science.

If you carry out those results to their logical end–commenters shape public opinion; public opinion shapes public policy; public policy shapes how and whether and what research gets funded […]

A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.


Coffman votes against saving money; for ineffective camo

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As reported by, the House Armed Services Committee today voted to approve an amendment to the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (the bill that funds the military for the year); the amendment would end the practice of allowing each branch of the Armed Services to contract for branch-specific camoflage uniforms, forcing the branches to share camoflage patterns and uniform cuts.

The amendment comes after a debacle in the Army with the proven-ineffective "Universal Camoflage Pattern" and a proliferation of patterns – there are currently three universal patterns, three woodland patterns and two desert patterns. For each pattern, the military has to buy corresponding battle armor, backpacks, and other gear camo covers, costing millons and perhaps billions of extra dollars.

Mike Coffman (CO-06) has the unfortunate distinction of being against the amendment, saying that savings would be miniscule and the "morale-boosting" effects outweighed the savings.

Really, Rep. Coffman? How significant is the morale boosting effect of wearing Army camo vs. Marine camo? I'm guessing most of our military would rather not get shot because they have the most effective camo rather than having that extra stylish flair from their service-specific version.

Civil Unions: Automatic Upgrade to Marriage?

There's lots of news to be had today on gay rights.

First, the Colorado State House Judiciary Committee today heard arguments on the Civil Unions bill. The bill is expected to pass easily through committee votes and then on the floor with some Republican support.

But the big news for Coloradans looking forward to more gay rights in the state may have come from the U.S. Department of Justice's amicus brief today in the Supreme Court review of California's Proposition 8. In it the Obama Administration argues that denying the name "marriage" to gay couples while providing domestic partner benefits equivalent to marriage fails any test of scrutiny the Court might choose – essentially, that marriage status should be conferred in states who offer civil union status to LGBT couples. Now, Amendment 43 bars this recognition, but presumably that would be overturned if the Supreme Court agrees to the Administration's argument.

At Least He’s Not Your Assemblyman

(promoted by PCG for being genuinely worse than any of our reps even on a bad day.)

Nevada Assemblyman Steven Brooks (D-Las Vegas) is no longer welcome in Nevada's legislative chambers and has been ejected from the Democratic Caucus following a series of violent outbursts…

Raw Story tells the tale:

Brooks was arrested January 19 on a felony charge after allegedly threatening Assembly Democratic Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, then detained by police several days later on a domestic disturbance call at his grandmother’s home.

[…] officers arrested Brooks on Sunday outside his wife’s Las Vegas home. A police report claims he attempted to choke her and threw punches at police, then threatened his wife as he was being taken away.

Way to go, soon-to-be-former-Assemblyman Brooks. Threatening your wife, your grandmother, and the state Assembly Speaker all within a month – takes real skill and courage… Jerk.

Colorado Joins S&P Fraud Lawsuit Bandwagon

(promoted by PCG)

The Associated Press (via the Houston Chronicle) is reporting that Colorado Attorney General Suthers has filed suit on behalf of the state against Standard & Poors for fraudulently inflating the ratings of risky derivatives investments in the years leading up to the Great Recession.

Colorado joins the Federal government and at least twelve other states in filing lawsuits against the ratings agency today. Colorado's suit was filed in the Denver District court.

The article claims that the Federal government seeks at least $5 billion in damages from S&P, but reports yesterday are that the government was negotiating for at least $8 billion when talks broke down. No details are provided on additional state damage amounts.

DC Circuit Court Overturns Recess Appointments

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

In a move that is sure to have repercussions down the road, The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals has invalidated the appointments of three National Labor Relations Board members – and, essentially, all of the decisions made by the board in the past year.

The ruling, unanimously issued by a panel of three conservative jurists, states that the recess appointment is limited to the period of time after Congress has recessed for the remainder of the session (once every two years before the next session is sworn in) – i.e. almost never in today’s Congressional schedule. It further limits recess appointments to those positions that open up during the recess. (more…)

Can We Talk About Gun Violence?

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( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

Tomorrow – Tuesday – the President’s gun violence task force led by VP Biden is scheduled to unveil the results and recommendations of its work. At this point, no-one really knows what might be in the proposal, but we have a few vague clues.

In advance of the announcement though, we might have a glimpse of some of the possibilities. The Center For American Progress today released its own report on gun violence prevention (PDF) with a list of 16 recommendations – a mix of things that require the attention of Congress, plus a few things that the President might be able to do via Executive Order.

What do you think? Do you have anything to add to the mix? What could we take from this report to use in Colorado without waiting for the Federal government to act?

The report groups recommended actions into three categories, and then further divides each category into Congressional action and Executive action. I’ve purposely made these points brief and will leave discussion to the comments.

Category 1: Improve Background Checks

  • Universal background checks (Congress)
  • Improve background check data (Congress)
  • Broaden the cefinition of “Stalker” (Congress)
  • Restrict firearms purchase by those on the Terrorist Watch List (Congress)
  • Restrict DOJ grants to states that do not contribute data to the NICS system (Executive)
  • Ensure Federal agencies are contributing all appropriate data to NICS (Executive)
  • Order the ATF to perform background checks of gun store employees when performing audits (Executive)

Category 2: Weapon Restrictions

  • Reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban, or some modern variant thereof (Congress)
  • Ban high-capacity magazines (Congress)
  • Broaden reporting of multiple-gun sales to include assault style weapons (Executive)

Category 3: Use The Data

  • Eliminate various riders restricting use of gun data from future appropriations bills (Congress)
  • Increase penalties for gun trafficking and background check violations (Congress)
  • Absorb ATF duties into the FBI (Executive)

Which ideas sound good to you?

View Results

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RIP Sen. Daniel Inouye

( – promoted by Colorado Pols)

This will be a brief hit:

Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye has died at the age of 88 after a battle with a respiratory illness.

His last words are reported to have been “Aloha”.